COLUMBIA — An anti-gay bill originally intended to educate students on the signs and dangers of dating violence passed the South Carolina House last week and was assigned to the South Carolina Senate’s Education Committee on Jan. 21.
Introduced and debated last year, the bill would require all school systems to adopt policies and programs to educate students on dating violence.
The bill originally defined “dating partner” as a “person, regardless of gender, involved in a intimate association with another primarily characterized by the expectation of affectionate involvement whether casual, serious, or long term.”
After debate on the bill last year, Republican Greg Delleney, who represents the Upstate’s Chester County and portions of York County, successfully added an anti-gay amendment to the bill, excluding LGBT students from any dating violence curriculum. With Delleney’s addition, “dating partner” was redefined as a “person involved in a heterosexual dating relationship with another.”
Advocates with SC Equality demanded the bill be dropped and the legislation lost enough Democratic support to be tabled.
Ann Willbrand, board secretary of SC Equality, said Delleney’s amendment amounted to nothing more than “gratuitous gay bashing” and said Delleney’s move served no positive purpose for youth.
“The point of the bill is to educate students about the signs of dating violence,” she said. “The bill didn’t specify anything about the victim or perpetrator’s gender. The education was all about the indicators of violence. How he got from that to somehow the schools would be teaching about homosexuality is crazy. It is beyond me.”
Willbrand said her organization learned of Delleney’s amendment late in the game last year. Luckily, they were able to get the bill tabled. But the bill has come back for debate this year. Last week it passed its third reading, with anti-gay amendment intact, in the House and was sent to the Senate. There it was assigned to the Education Committee.
As the legislature debates the bill, the state’s Department of Education has already begun to implement a dating violence education program of its own.
As reported by qnotes earlier this month, the department will partner with the statewide Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to begin teacher education initiatives in several school districts in Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Charleston and Greenville counties. The program is being funded, in part, by a $10,000 grant from Verizon Wireless.
Rebecca Williams-Agee, communications director for the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, said her organization’s trainings made no distinction between opposite-sex or same-sex relationships.
“Our programs are about healthy relationships in general and there is no distinction made between either [gay or straight relationships],” she said, adding the group’s curriculum does, at times, recognize the unique “dynamics in society and communities with gay and lesbian youth and individuals.”
Williams-Agee said her organization is opposed to any teen dating violence legislation which excludes gay and lesbian students.
“We are really trying to get that amendment taken off,” she said. “We oppose it with that amendment and we do not believe there should be a distinction made between either [gay or straight relationships].”
qnotes attempted contacting Delleney for comment on this story and left a message with his office in Columbia. At press time, Delleney had yet to return our phone call.
— Teaser photo courtesy banlon1964, via Flickr.